What is love? How do you find it? And, once we have it in our grasp, how do we keep and maintain it? Well, these are three very large and often life-defining questions right there. Huge questions in fact.

These questions also lead to other ones, such as; do we even need love? Is love everlasting? Is there such a thing as true love? So, we’ve established these are big questions – yet why are there so few concrete and definitive answers out there? You’d have thought that learned people, scientists and academics would have provided us with the definitive answers and that we simply needed to follow their findings for guaranteed success. Not so. Therefore, I guess the tricky and often all too illusive ‘answer to the answers’ is found only deep within us – in our souls and hearts. As I say, our old friend ‘love’ is an infinite topic.

Let’s start with some basics. I think it’s widely acknowledged that a healthy, loving relationship will, on the whole, enhance countless aspects of your life. Studies have shown us that both your emotional and mental well-being are boosted and supported by being in a positive relationship. Also, that your physical health and overall happiness levels benefit as a result. For many, though, finding someone we want to share our lives with can seem like a daunting and impossible task.

In this article, I’m sharing my thoughts and observations. These are based on decades of working with people of all ages and all walks of life. There is often a thread running through them all – issues, concerns and emotions regarding relationships. This being said, my role is that of a guide. The journey to seek true love is yours to take alone.

The first step to meeting and finding a suitable partner is to distinguish between what you think you want and what you really need in your lifelong companion. Wants are negotiable, needs are not.

There is a notion that true love will find you; simply sit back and the aligned stars of the cosmos and fickle fate will deliver Mr or Mrs Perfect to your door. It won’t. I don’t know if it ever did, but in this day and age, no. The reality is that you’ve really got to put in the hard yards, you need to put the effort in. Finding the person that’s right for you is going to take some effort on your part.

I’m not going to suggest I know ‘the secret’, however, I do know you need to at least be looking and thinking about the task at hand.

What are you really looking for in love? What qualities are on your wish-list for a prospective partner? Please don’t focus on appearance exclusively. Love isn’t always a fairy tale; you’ll have your relationship wants, but if you persist and insist that your partner needs to be 100 per cent perfect in each and every regard, you’ll inevitably be sorely disappointed. The goal should be to find an equal, someone to stand with you, to brave the confusion of this world, and to experience life to its maximum potential together.

From the word go, be authentic and be your true self. If you want someone to love you through your times of failure, then it goes that you must also be willing to do that for them. By being authentic with yourself, you’ll be prepared for their authenticity and honesty to prevail.

Be happy

Happy people are more attractive and more interesting to more people. Is being a happy person an attractive trait? I think it is on balance. Roald Dahl, in The Twits puts it perfectly! "A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely."

By projecting that you’re a happy person, you make youself more approachable and more open to interaction. Happier people are often perceived as being more ‘together’ and at one with themselves and their situation in life. Everyone wants to be around happy people; it’s the right type of contagious – happiness is magnetic! Granted, there’s still room for that romantic brooding, mysterious moody type, but overall, I think happiness just about wins through!

Don’t rely on first impressions

This is especially true when it comes to online or virtual dating, as people often don't portray themselves ‘accurately’, shall we say. Regardless of how or where you meet a prospective partner it will always take time to properly get to know them. Try and avoid the instant judgement particularly in respect to appearances. You really have to experience being with them in a variety of settings, before you truly begin knowing him or her.

Honestly, you

It’s important to portray and display yourself in the best possible light, that’s a given, as it makes you more interesting. However, it’s important to also be honest about your own shortcomings and faults. Everyone has flaws and for a relationship to blossom and develop, it’s important that you love you for the person you really are, not the person you'd like to be, or the person they think you have the prospect of becoming.

Don’t forget, what you consider to be a flaw may in reality be the thing another person finds appealing and original in you. Being honest and removing any pretence will help both of you to nurture a fulfilling relationship.

Be relationship ready

It’s often said that opposites attract, however, this is unlikely to play out all that well if you’re sluggish and gluttonous with stains down your shirt. The beautiful person of your dreams simply isn’t going to be calling any time soon. In reality, the phrase ‘like attracts like’ is far more relevant in most circumstances. Where you set the bar for your own standards can determine the standards of the individual you may want to spend your life with, so get ready to make an effort! And always approach the ‘opposites attract’ theory with caution.

Confidence breeds confidence

Confidence can be infectious. When you’re a confident person, people are more interested in what you’re about – confidence is different to arrogance or boastfulness. Therefore, being confident in yourself, in the decisions you make and your capacity to attract love into your life is much more likely to succeed. By being the authentic self-assured you, confidence will radiate from you brightly. Foster and harness this confidence in the knowledge that you are generous and complete by just being you.

Open up your personal network

If you’re trying to find and develop a relationship with someone new, then you should be prepared to connect more and open up with the wider people around you. It could be as simple as the individuals you work with that you’ve avoided striking up conversations with. I’m not suggesting you’ll find the love of your life there, but you will open up your opportunities by being willing to engage. Developing this spirit of openness will help you build your personal networks that may lead to a lasting relationship further down the line.

There are so many lessons from finding love that are easily transferable to enjoying and maintaining a loving relationship. Don’t forget that finding the right person is just the beginning of the journey and not the final destination. Moving on from dating to a committed long-term relationship will need you both to nurture and develop that new connection. It's a process that requires time and effort. It also requires an openness to compromise and change from both parties.

Future-proof change

People change over time and so do relationships, they all do, it’s a fact of life. You and your partner will change, and so will your needs and expectations from your relationship and life in general! What you wanted from the relationship at the start may end up being very different from what you both wanted from that same relationship several years down the line. Think of a relationship like a river, it ebbs and flows. In the beginning, at the source it’s all power, passion and intensity, then later it changes and becomes more mellow. Naturally there are still a few surprises around the bends, but over time the ‘relationship river’ slows, it takes a wider, more predictable and hopefully calmer path!

Relationship investment

No relationship runs smoothly without regular maintenance and attention, so ask yourself are you willing to invest the time and effort into this relationship to really make it work and flourish? You should. Often, over time, couples switch off from one another, but I believe that the more you invest in each other and in the relationship as a whole, the more you grow to care. The key is to find a way to build a lasting partnership with shared goals and ambitions for the future.

When you find it, stop looking and start enjoying it.

Russell Hemmings is a Dubai-based life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting (russellhemmings.co.uk).

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